Research Summary

The complex intersections between law, land, property and gender is beginning to receive due attention by historians. Even so, much is to be said regarding the involvement of wives in land management and the administration of property within a legal framework, especially when considering the unique position of wives during the early modern period in Scotland. Under civil law, married women in Scotland were not subject to the same limits of coverture as their English counterpart’s south of the border, and were granted the capability to retain a proportion of their landed and moveable property upon marriage. Through the retention of their own surname, the rights of their kin group were often equally important, and they could lawfully limit the extent to which their husband could administer and dispose of their joint marital property without seeking prior permission.

When discussed in relation to property, married women are often homogenized and subsumed within narratives, and are often uncomfortably placed under the guise of their husband. Citing the legal constraints attached to the status of ‘wife’, there has been a tendency to over-emphasize their prescribed lack of legal agency when asserting proprietorship of their assets within the confines of the law, especially when considered in relation to the liberated ‘widow’. To redress this imbalance, the thesis will explain how women in the west of Scotland understood, accessed and asserted ownership of their marital property upon the formation of a marriage, during the management of the partnership, and finally, upon the dissolution of the union. By focusing on legal deeds, contracts, testaments and property litigation in the burgh (lay) and commissary (reformed church) courts of Glasgow during the seventeenth century, the thesis will provide the first in-depth analysis of the issues facing Scottish wives in relation to their ability to manage their real estate and moveable goods before the law, revealing how the legal process understood and recorded their legal and marital identities as complex and multi-layered.  


Rebecca Mason, 'Women, Marital Status, and Law: The Marital Spectrum in Seventeenth-Century Glasgow', Journal of British Studies, 58, 4 (2019), 787-804. 

Rebecca Mason, 'Married women, property and paraphernalia in early modern Scotland' in Gender, Law and Economic Well-Being in Europe from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century: North Versus South?, eds. Anna Bellavitis and Beatrice Zucca Micheletto, (Routledge, 2018), 200-214. 

Mason, R. (2018) Maria Ågren, Making a living, making a difference: gender and work in early modern European society, (Oxford, 2016), pp. 272. ISBN 978-0190240622, Women's History Review, 27:3, pp. 496-497. ( [Book Review] 

Mason, R. (2018) Elizabeth Ewan and Janay Nugent (eds), Children and Youth in Premodern Scotland, (Rochester, NY, 2015), pp. 251. ISBN 9781783270439. Journal of Family History, 43 (1) pp. 99-102. ( [Book Review]

Mason, R. (2017) Cathryn Spence, Women, Credit and Debt in Early Modern Scotland, (Manchester, 2016), pp. 216. ISBN 978-1784992538, Scottish Historical Review, 96 (1), pp. 119-121. ( [Book Review] 




    The Alasdair Ross Prize, 2019
    Scottish History Endowment, 2019
    AHRC PhD studentship, 2015-2018
    Ross Fund Award, 2017
    SGSAH Doctoral Internship Award, 2017
    SGSAH Collaborative Doctoral Training Award, 2017
    Academic Excellence Award 2011


    Co-organiser of 'The Communities and Margins of Early Modern Scotland', 20-21 October 2017

    Co-organiser of 'Parenting and the Law' workshop, 22 May 2017


    History 1A: Scotland's Millennium 1000-2000

    History 2A: The Social and Cultural History of Europe, 1500-2000